MILAN Top designers presented hamburger prints, colored jeans and soft interpretations of formal suits to conclude Milan men's fashion week on Tuesday, recognizing a new generation of men who dare to be bold and casual.
Knitwear replaced shirts under soft jackets at Giorgio Armani, while Ermanno Scervino dressed models in Swarovski gem-encrusted denim, creating the "upper casual" style which is growing on the back of demand from Asian consumers.
"The traditional tailored jacket is out of fashion," Giorgio Armani told reporters after showing the spring-summer 2014 collection for his eponymous line.
Fashion house Frankie Morello paired brightly colored blazers with tracksuit trousers and sweaters emblazoned with pictures of hamburgers and sushi.
"It's really about the younger generation that has no block on what they throw together," said designer Paul Surridge, adding that his collection for Z Zegna drew on parent company Ermenegildo Zegna's sartorial tradition, with an "urban mix".
"But it's not just about age - I'd love it if an 84-year-old rocked up in my garments," Surridge said.
In line with the rest of the luxury-goods market, the demand for "upper casual" clothing is driven by customers in Asia, a region the Italian fashion industry increasingly relies on, according to Claudia d'Arpizio, who analyzes the fashion market for management consultancy Bain.
While Europe remains Italian fashion's biggest export market, according to trade body Sistema Moda Italia (SMI), exports to Japan grew 19.8 percent last year, while those to China grew 14.9 percent to around 130 million euros ($169.97 million).
No estimate was available for the number of buyers attending the Milan shows this year, but last week's biannual Pitti Uomo menswear event in Florence hosted 4.6 percent more foreign buyers than in 2012, while the number of Italian buyers was unchanged on the year.
The number of Chinese buyers at the Florence event was up 11 percent from 2012, according to the organizer's website.
Bain's d'Arpizio said the ultra-rich in China preferred to dress casually, a sentiment echoed on Tuesday by Ermanno Scervino.
"I think a man should always be a bit informal, even when he's dressed smartly," the Italian designer told Reuters.
($1 = 0.7649 Euro)
(Reporting By Isla Binnie; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and David Brunnstrom)